In My Humble Opinion (IMHO)
by Chris Morris
My Essay on the upcoming DC Cinematic Universe
Part Four of Four – What should they not be afraid to copy from Marvel?
These are my opinions, my humble opinions in fact, on the upcoming DC Cinematic Universe. In Part One I tried keeping it positive, Part Two I got nasty, Part Three I get constructive, and now Part Four we wrap it all up…
This series of four articles will be broken down like this…
4) What should they not be afraid to copy from Marvel ?
– aside from, uh, everything? ☺
– Hollywood has a reputation of wanting to take things like comic book characters and needing to ‘make them better’ so they will fit up on the silver screen. Part of the reason Sin City was revolutionary was that director Robert Rodriguez seemed to really trust the material. Most importantly, he never looked down on it. He even brought in Frank Miller to co-direct just so they knew they were following his vision. Because, to him, a comic book artist’s vision is just as relevant as a Hollywood film director’s vision. Just the fact they were scared to say the word “Superman” in Man of Steel really set off the alarm bells for me. They need to embrace the DC Universe, and comic books in general, as worthy of their time. Marvel would put their characters on Mount Rushmore if allowed. They embrace the greatness, the goofiness and everything in between. If DC/WB are, frankly, embarrassed by their characters and whether or not they wear underwear on the outside of their costumes, then maybe they should re-think this whole thing and save us all some time (and money).
– hire actors who “get it”. One of the coolest things to come out of the Marvel Studios revolution is that the actors they’ve hired seem to be really cool people. From RDJ to Chris Evans to Jaime Alexander to Chris Pratt, you are always hearing stories about how they visit sick kids in hospital IN COSTUME no less. How cool is that, really? Not only that but they really seem to appreciate the legacy of these characters, talk about what they mean to a lot of people and see these roles as a ‘responsibility’. Most importantly, they don’t see running around in spandex as a joke. Hopefully the actors that DC/WB hire don’t think of wearing superhero costumes in the same way Michael Keaton’s character did in “Birdman”; i.e. beneath them. You would think we were past that after the all-star casts of movies like Nolan’s Batman trilogy, but some actors think of these movies as ‘slumming’ it and a way to make a paycheque in between roles in the theatre or indy films.
– have the confidence in the DC characters to keep going, even if there are a few stumbles along the way. “The Avengers” made $1.5 billion, but before that “The Incredible Hulk” ‘only’ made $263 million and “Captain America” ‘only’ made $370 million, off of budgets of $150 million and $140 million, respectively. Marvel Studios knew they just had to get to “The Avengers” and it would be all worth it. “Thor”, thought to be the hardest character to translate to film, made $450 million but there was always a plan for a sequel.
– spread out the attention on your characters. From the outside, especially after “Green Lantern” tanked, DC/WB seem to think that Batman and maybe Superman are the only characters who can make them money. Flash, Aquaman and Justice League movies have all been in development hell for, what, decades? DC/WB just can’t seem to pull the trigger on anyone but Bats and Supes. But they have over 75 years worth of amazing characters to play with and if they just focus on two, then that Justice League movie with two heroes and some other people is going to be lame. Anyone who thought a live-action “Iron Man” starring Robert Downey Jr. would be come a billion dollar franchise has to be lying. Is there a chance “The Flash” could do that? If done well, of course it can. If no then why are they bothering making these films? If things get off to a rocky start, I can easily see them bumping “Flash” and “Cyborg” for “Man of Steel 3” or “Batfleck Part One”.
– DC needs their own Kevin Feige to be their guardian angel, to stand up to the Hollywood suits and make sure the movies are being respectful of their characters. WB adapted the Harry Potter novels faithfully, but would they have if JK Rowling wasn’t watching over it all? In the past I’ve suggested someone like Bruce Timm for this job. I guess Geoff Johns is in that role and he has done great work lately with the DC TV shows, but he was the ‘liaison’ when DC/WB made “Green Lantern” and you’d think he would have been the perfect guy to tell them that they were way off course, considering he was writing “GL” at the time. Or maybe he did, and that’s the problem. Plus Johns is writing how many comic books these days as well as writing scripts for “Flash” and “Arrow”. Someone needs to do this full-time.
– need humour, silliness, FUN! Marvel’s characters, starting it off with “Iron Man”, are fun to watch. “The Avengers” had great back and forth banter, likely thanks to Joss Whedon. “Guardians of the Galaxy” had Drax, the great songs and Kevin Bacon jokes. These things are the opposite of what Zack Snyder is known for. When was the last time someone made a joke in a Snyder film? Oh yeah there were a few quote-‘joke’ in “Man of Steel” but they hit the ground so hard you would have thought they were made of steel. Can there be a meeting in the middle? You would have thought that would be possible with Christopher Nolan producing “MoS”, since “The Dark Knight” seemed to have just the right amount of pathos, action and humour. “Man of Steel” needed a character like Michael Caine’s Alfred (the funny one from “BB” and “TDK”, not the bitchy, crying one from “TDKR”) or Morgan Freeman’s Lucious to lighten things up. Even the computers in the Marvel Universe (Jarvis) are funny. Even Edward Norton’s “The Incredible Hulk” had a lot of funny lines. “Thor’s” ‘fish-out-of-water’ humour made the character more relatable. After all, these are movies about Gods in spandex, people.
– have the confidence you know what you are doing even when the people you hire don’t. While the ‘cat’s out of the bag’ so to speak now that Marvel is into Phase Two, remember when, in interviews, Jon Favreau would talk about how he had no idea how a character like “Thor” was going to fit into the same universe as “Iron Man”? Kenneth Branagh said the same thing, as did Joe Johnston. Remember when they spoke about the added-on post credits scenes like they were things they had to do contractually and not something they wanted to do? This seemingly cost Favreau the “Avengers” directing job. They didn’t get it but Kevin Feige did. Nolan has even said that Superman and Batman don’t belong in the same universe. But they do. As does Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Shazam.
– go deep into the DC Universe. People were baffled when Marvel announced “Guardians of the Galaxy” was going to be a movie. But it worked. Now the DC Universe has, arguably, an even better roster of non-Earth bound characters to choose from. The New Gods, Thanagar, the Green Lantern Corps, Captain Comet, Lobo…did I mention the fricking New Gods??? I nominate Adam Strange to be a guy to build the DC-space universe around. A human who is Zeta-Beamed into a strange sector of the universe, he has to adapt to his weird surroundings on Rann as well as being introduced, like the rest of us, to Katar and Shayera Hall from Thanagar, Gordanians and even Tamaranians, not to mention the space police of the GL Corps. Who wouldn’t love to see the Rann-Thanagar war on the big screen? Who wouldn’t love to see Jack Kirby’s New Gods come to life, perhaps with the Scott Free/Big Barda storyline as a way to open up that world to the masses. And why not follow Marvel’s approach: use this to build up Darkseid as the major bad guy, like Marvel is doing with Thanos, and then have Darkseid be the big bad in the 3rd Justice League movie, maybe.
– don’t be precious with the origins/backstories of the characters. Don’t just follow the New 52 way of doing things (especially since it’s not like the New 52 got rave reviews). Marvel didn’t necessarily go chapter-and-verse with all their characters. Thor’s secret identity of Donald Blake was mentioned in a throw away joke. The Mandarin…well we’ll stay away from that debate. Don’t necessarily follow timelines. Maybe Darkseid is the one who destroys Jonn Jonzz’s home planet of Mars and that’s how he ends up on Earth? These characters have been around for 75 years (well not all of them…) and all but a few have had many, many reboots in comics form as well as cartoon form and some in live-action form. The movie version could/should be the best of all of those, the distillation of all that came before. In a sense those other versions could be the ‘previews’ and the movie is the Broadway show. Not better, just more refined, with the imperfections chipped away. In a sense, the comic book form is the best ‘first try’ you could have. It’s not often when years, well, decades of storylines for one single character can be looked at, plotted out on a whiteboard and then all the best stuff kept and the bad stuff thrown away. “The Flash” TV show is doing this right now, taking the best of the Barry Allen version, the best of the Wally West version, throw in some Speed Force, the Rogues and mix it all into one pot. Of course this requires someone with a lot of knowledge of all forms of the DC Universe. I’d nominate myself but that would be wrong, right?
– Create off shoot related-yet-not universes; as I mentioned before, having space adventures that have nothing to do with the Avengers (yet) was great for “Guardians of the Galaxy”. So they could have a set of films set in space. But what about a set of movies in the magical DC universe? Guillermo del Toro is attached to a Justice League Dark film. Why not a Zatanna film, a Hellblazer film, a Deadman film, a Dr. Fate/Spectre team up film. Why not a Charlton world where Blue Beetle, The Question, Captain Atom and the other characters that inspired “The Watchmen” exist? And why not have the world of “Shazam” be another separate entity? Marvel is held back a bit by the fact their movie rights were scattered to the wind during their bankruptcy years. DC/WB could give them different movie imprints, like they did for the New 52. Treat them all as different worlds in a multi-verse that is eventually brought together, once the movies don’t seem so special anymore and need a kick, sort of like how Spider-Man will spice things up in the Marvel universe. They need a multi-verse, after all, other wise it won’t make sense when they adapt “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, will it?
– don’t freak out over what the internet says! Sure, Batfleck broke the internet, but by the time the movie comes out, mainstream movie goers will be all like “Oh, yeah, didn’t I hear something about Ben Affleck playing Batman? Let’s go see that.” Don’t get over confident now that everyone on Facebook and Twitter is loving the image of Jason Momoa’s badass Aquaman. The Internet is important (especially this website and this article!) but the internet is filled with hardcores who are going to see the movie(s) either way.
I complain all the time on my podcast about how these DC/WB movies are going to suck (Part Two of this series was by far the longest) but I also admit I will be there opening night. Or the night before, if there is a midnight preview. It’s the mainstream people you need to get if you want to make a billion dollars. Don’t forget that. You don’t need the internet to love you and love every move you make, or every decision you make. Truth is, the more people talk about Batfleck, good or bad, it gets the subject trending, making it spread to the mainstream and getting their attention is so important. Sorry to break it to you internet, and remember I am one of you, but in the grand scheme of things, all your yelling and screaming is just making them money.
Well that’s it. I hope you enjoyed this series. My apologies for taking so long with Part Four, I have been fighting an illness, plus I was working on my “Best Picture Oscar” series as well. Any comments please write them below or at the very least how about a RT?